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Patients at Hertfordshire dental practice told they need HIV tests due to unclean equipment | World News

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Hundreds of patients at a dental surgery have been told to take HIV tests over fears unclean equipment was used on them.

Public Health England (PHE) has been investigating “potential breaches of infection control procedures” by a hygienist who used to work at Dentality @ Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

Some 563 patients who had “dental scaling treatment” at the practice have received letters explaining that they could have been exposed to blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV.

A PHE spokeswoman said equipment used by the hygienist “was potentially not cleaned adequately” but the risk to patients was “extremely low”.

Meanwhile, the General Dental Council (GDC) confirmed that a “concern was raised in relation to dental professional Ekta Parikh and this is being investigated”.

A GDC spokesman said: “Due to the nature of the concern, an interim orders committee placed restrictions on the individual’s practice to manage risk to the public whilst the investigation continues.”

PHE said it was contacted by the dental practice “expressing its concerns around potential infection control breaches”.

A dedicated telephone line has been set up for patients to get more information and book a blood test if they wish to do so, it added.

Dr Jorg Hoffmann, deputy director for health protection at PHE East, said: “I would like to emphasise that the risk of contracting Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV is extremely low and that testing is being offered as a precautionary measure.

“We know patients will be anxious about this situation and they will be supported by the NHS and PHE throughout.

“Effective treatments are available for all blood-borne viruses, which is why it was important to identify anyone who may have been put at risk of infection so testing and treatment can be offered.”

According to The Sun, the blunder came to light in January when other staff at the practice realised an ultrasonic scaler was not being put in the steriliser as often as it should.

Public Health England have written to patients from Dentality @ Hoddesdon practice. File pic
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A dedicated phone line has been set up for patients to book HIV tests. File pic

The scaler was cleaned only twice a day, when it should have been sterilised after each use, the newspaper said.

One patient told The Sun it was “terrifying” to receive a letter telling them they needed to take a HIV test.

“They can say the risk is small all they want – but the truth is that they don’t actually know,” the patient said.

“The fact it took them three months to warn everyone is disgusting. How many more people could have been infected in that time?”

Responding to the criticism, a PHE spokeswoman said: “It would have been wrong of us to contact people before we had fully assessed the level of risk and determined who needed to be contacted and what we needed to tell them.”

In a statement to Sky News, Dr Vishaal Shah, from Dentality @ Hoddesdon, said: “We put our patients first. In November we became aware of behaviour from a hygienist that did not meet the rigorous standards we expect from our team.

“We immediately launched a full investigation, and have escalated the matter to all key authorities. We have continued working closely with them to ensure that patients are protected.

“We understand anyone receiving these letters will have real concerns. While there is an extremely low risk of exposure, all these patients are being offered detailed information, and a dedicated number to call to book an appointment for blood testing and get further advice.”

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